Need to Know: Feb. 21, 2020


You might have heard: Twitter bans deepfake videos ahead of the 2020 election (CNBC)

But did you know: Twitter is testing more ways to fight misinformation — including a community-based points system (NBC News)

A leaked demo sent to NBC News shows that Twitter is experimenting with adding brightly colored labels directly beneath lies and misinformation posted by politicians and other public figures. The labels, stating “Harmfully misleading,” would be immediately followed by tweets from verified journalists and fact-checkers correcting the information. Twitter is also testing out a system whereby journalists, fact checkers and other users could earn points and “community badges” as they debunk false information, which is designed to keep trolls and political ideologues from abusing the feature.

+ Noted: Los Angeles Times is offering buyouts to staffers with at least two years of employment (CNN); The Charleston Gazette-Mail just let go of its second editor in less than two years (Poynter)


In this week’s edition of ‘Factually’

Fact-checking on coronavirus far exceeds that of Zika, Facebook removes a “parody” local news page, and deepfakes debut in Indian elections. Factually is a weekly newsletter produced by API and the Poynter Institute that covers fact-checking and misinformation.


How to make hard facts easy to read (Poynter)

When ideas get more complex, our writing tends to increase in complexity too. Instead, use shorter words, shorter sentences, and shorter paragraphs, writes Roy Peter Clark. “Think of the period as a stop sign. The more stop signs, the slower the pace, which is good if you are trying to make something clear.” It’s also helpful to imagine you’re having a conversation with one person, and write that way. One of the best ways to achieve that is by addressing the reader directly as “you.”


Across three continents, media literacy programs are yielding results (Nieman Lab)

Full Fact, an independent fact-checking charity in the United Kingdom, partnered with Africa Check and Argentina’s Chequeado to analyze academic research and fact-checking experiments in the three regions. They found that intervention programs across different age demographics in three countries (Uganda, Argentina, and the U.K.) were successful in training participants to identify misinformation. Simulation techniques were one particularly effective method, as well as games that required players to assume “the role of a fake news reporter.”

+ Earlier: Investigative journalism startup uses mobile gaming to educate players about misinformation and the journalistic process — and to finance its future (


The Bloomberg campaign’s manipulated video is a ‘slippery slope’ (Washington Post)

The Bloomberg campaign released a deceptively edited video after Wednesday night’s debate, which showed the other candidates pausing, apparently at a loss for words, after Bloomberg said, “I’m the only one here that I think that’s ever started a business. Is that fair?” The “reaction” shots of the candidates were actually taken from different moments during the debate. “One has to seriously question the credibility of any campaign that would push out such a manipulated video,” tweeted Glenn Kessler, who runs the fact-checking team at The Washington Post. “This is a dangerously slippery slope that will lead to a nuclear war of fake videos.”

+ Twitter says the Bloomberg debate video likely violates its deepfake policy, which goes into effect on March 5. Facebook says the video does not violate its policies. (Verge)


Is Alden the archvillain crushing local news? It’s a little more complicated. (Poynter)

Alden Global Capital, the hedge fund known for buying up newspapers and aggressively slashing costs, is now closing in on Tribune Publishing and Lee Enterprises. “No time like now to re-ask the burning question,” writes Rick Edmonds. “Who are these guys and what do they want?” According to employees at Alden-owned papers, the hedge fund has no political or operating agenda. Journalists face no restrictions on the stories they want to pursue. Alden has dabbled in distressed industries for years, and excelled at one thing: cutting costs. Casting Alden as the Darth Vader of local news “is giving them way too much credit,” said Neil Chase, formerly executive editor of the Alden-controlled Bay Area News Group. “They aren’t destroying journalism. They just don’t care about journalism … And they don’t have an end game — they want to come out with more money than before.”


Marfa’s answer to the collapse of local news: coffee and cocktails (New York Times)

Copies of The Big Bend Sentinel are spread around the Sentinel, a bar and cafe attached to the newspaper’s office in Marfa, Texas. The chic, brightly-lit space is the creation of Maisie Crow and Max Kabat, two transplants from New York who bought the newspaper in 2018. For now, the profits from the bar (no profit from cafe side yet) help subsidize the newsweekly, and Crow and Kabat also rent it out as private event space. Next door the newspaper staff cram into a much smaller room, although they often wander into the cafe during the workday. “It’s a great way to keep my finger on the pulse and get new leads and find stories,” said Managing Editor Abbie Perrault.

+ Reaction: “I don’t know if it’s the answer for everyone, but I really like this newsroom/cafe/events model for small papers — be part of the community, let people into the process, etc.” (Twitter, @mathewi)


+ Behind McClatchy’s bankruptcy: “Google won search. Facebook won social. Newspapers won nothing. The failure to build new digital media products, born on the web, is the singular failing of newspapers.” (Medium, A Life of Fiction)

+ In Memphis’ unexpected news war, The Daily Memphian’s model demands attention (Nieman Lab)